Germany is sending 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia, the air force's largest peacetime deployment, underlining Berlin's increased focus on the Indo-Pacific, amid rising tensions in the region.
A German warship sailed into the South China Sea for the first time in nearly 20 years last year, which saw Berlin joining Western nations in expanding its military presence in the region amid growing alarm over China's territorial ambitions.
Tensions have also risen over Taiwan since China claimed Taiwan as its own territory and kicked off military drills around the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei at the beginning of August.
On Monday, six Eurofighter jets took off from a base in Neuberg an der Donau in southern Germany and three A 330 tankers from Cologne for the three-day flight to Australia, where four German A 400 M transporters have already left, joining 16 other nations in the biennial exercise Pitch Black, along with four German A 400 M transporters that have already left.
During the deployment, the pilots will conduct around 200 mid-air refuelings of fighter jets, German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz told reporters ahead of the mission.
Asked whether the planes will pass the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, two flashpoints of tension with China in the region, Gerhartz said the aircraft would use civilian air traffic routes and that no passage of the Taiwan Strait was planned.
The South China Sea, Taiwan - these are the sticking points in the region, he told reporters.
Gerhartz said that he was aiming to send a signal to Germany's partners rather than China with the deployment.
He said that we don't think we are sending a threatening message to China by flying to an exercise in Australia.
The General's comments were echoed by Australia's ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, who stressed that there was no reason why Beijing should see regular exercise as destabilising to the region.
When asked about the message for China, Green said that they were looking for a region that will be stable, peaceful and prosperous, strategic equilibrium where each country can take their own sovereign choices.